Opening Day is April 3 against the Brewers and it can’t come soon enough. To help cope with the pain of a baseball free life, Rox Pile will be counting down the 100 greatest Colorado Rockies in franchise history.
This list isn’t completely arbitrary but it does not rely strictly on numbers. Other factors will include major contributions, team culture, fan appreciation and overall importance to the club. This order is in no way definitive. It is meant to spark conversation. Let us know your thoughts at @RoxpileFS on Twitter. Let the countdown begin! Let baseball start soon.
99. Nick Hundley
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I’ve got 99 problems and Nick Hundley ain’t one. While those lyrics might not be as catchy as the original, the words ring true for the Colorado Rockies. Hundley over the span of his career deserves to be ranked much higher in any all-time list. If this were the top-100 Padres, his ranking number would be a lot smaller. But now that Hundley is a free-agent, his ability to make a further dent in this list is limited. So how did we get here?
Almost two years ago to the day (January 5, 2015) Hundley was brought in to address a serious problem. Catcher, First baseman slash DH in the National League, Wilin Rosario just never could fully settle into one position; especially behind the plate. The bat was never the problem with Rosario, rather it was his ability to develop the Rockies young pitching and gain the trust of the entire staff. Enter Nick Hundley.
The Rockies didn’t need a flashy signing. They needed stability to develop their many pitching prospects. This is exactly what the Rockies received in return. It didn’t hurt that in Hundley’s first year with the club he batted a career high .301 and scored a career high 45 runs in 103 games. His 1.8 WAR only sweetened the deal and made the signing look like a step forward. This past season was where it got complicated for Hundley’s tenure as a Rockie. He never played below replacement level but Hundley started the season slowly. By the time he got the bat going, his back up Tony Wolters seemingly came out of nowhere and was doing better frame jobs than the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Hundley’s mentorship is one of the biggest impacts he’s brought to this organization. It might have cost him his job with the Rockies. Wolters and backup Tom Murphy are a year ahead of schedule and have given the front office confidence enough that they can handle an entire season and the further development of this staff. Wolters, Murphy and Dustin Garneau without fail mentioned Hundley whenever talking about getting prepared when they were asked to play bigger roles in 2016.
But it is the way that Hundley handled the pitching staff that should be what he’s remembered for most. In 2015 before the trade deadline, Hundley overheard Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post speaking poorly of the pitching staff. Kiszla may of had a point. The Rockies were in the midst of the worst five year stretch of pitching this franchise has ever seen. Really the whole outlook for the team looked pretty bleak capped off by the star shortstop getting traded. But Hundley did not back down and came to the defense of his pitchers. He was always willing to talk to the media but made sure he was always speaking in the best interest of his pitchers. That’s all a pitcher want’s in a catcher is trust and Hundley never wavered in this regard.
Hundley’s impact goes far beyond one good season and one average season statistically. He may have only been in Denver for two years, but he left this staff with way more potential than it ever had before he joined this team. Nick Hundley was a large part why this city can get excited about pitching at 20th & Blake. That alone deserves a spot on this list.